Powder Finger

So the world wakes again to another US shooting atrocity. Yet another homegrown nut job. Orange Donald said it wasn’t guns to blame but mental illness – no shit, still a lump of lead to the head does you no good at all no matter how sick the trigger finger. Pity the bloke didn’t just have access to a sharp stick instead of an arsenal.

Really Donald? Like any normal well-adjusted person wakes up and says “think I’ll just top a few people first thing then slide off down the gym for an hour or two.”

Easy pickings for the shooter down the local church. God’s will. I bet that one took some serious explaining. Bloke in the Big House woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Or to quote the legendary Tom Waits "There is no Devil, it’s just God when he’s drunk…”

So aside from the fact the bloke was stark raving mad, he also had access to an assault rifle. Helps if you are hell bent on carnage. Can you just imagine trying to get your twitchy fingers on one of those in the UK?

We all know of the odd dodgy boozer where various articles may be bought or sold, but I reckon you would be very lucky to so much as score a rusty converted starting pistol with no bullets. Thankfully bullets are a big sticking point, I am reliably informed, very limited supply – no ammunition for the hardware.

Fortunately for us average Joes that’s just a problem for seriously hardened criminals.

So, the USA. Crazy place. I receive daily mail shots from big US auction houses selling off general household goods. Often a way to pickup an unwanted guitar but don’t try it yourself. CITES, Customs, pitfalls, you know it makes sense.

The advertising revels in detail, typically - “Mancave Sell-Off”. Offerings include machine guns, Uzi’s, crossbows, daggers, body armour. Place a bid, buy online at the click of a button. What a fucked-up place. Can you imagine trying to ship an assault rifle home? That would make CITES look like a walk in the park. What’s the duty rate on guns, do you pay VAT? Wouldn’t surprise me if they are exempt, just to give the arms trade a boost, hard-up non-VAT registered terrorist groups not being able to reclaim input tax, wouldn’t do, they just might look elsewhere for their gear. Oiling the wheels of industry, maintain cash flow.

The right-to-bear-arms. As if the land was still swarming with Red Indians – can I say that? I wonder if they had other colours before they shot them all and nicked their land ?

I don’t think the Orange One needs to worry about letting nutters in, he’s got 1000s of home grown ones to deal with, brought up on apple pie and bullshit.

In the dim and murky past life, when I was a School Governor, I got in to serious shit over Halloween. Apparently not to be celebrated, anti-religious, devil worship, paganism. The school kids loved it though. Bit of a link there, Halloween, America, Americanisation, keep up.

Bollocks, it has something to do with Autumn and harvesting – you may not all remember that season, it’s just about disappeared now. A time of year when it started to get cold & damp, fog, all that sort of stuff. Hands up who has never seen proper fog? Thick, grey, enveloping, silencing, cuts visibility to five feet. Not like a poncy misty morning all dew and ephemeral.

Go on, say it – just what the fuck are you on about Grandad and what’s “five feet” anyway?

Don’t worry. the Planet is going to bite you back. That glaciers about to drop off the edge. You’d wish you had bought longer wellies then.

Halloween – it was all about harvesting, turnips and stuff. Maybe they were pagans, or at least always covered in shit, so must have looked like a pagan, or was it peasant?

Monty Python and the Holy Grail had peasants. I watched that on Broadway, very funny, the Americans just didn’t get it.

I think it was turnips, which is funny ‘cos when I was a kid we used to hollow out a turnip, or swede if you were posh, to make a lantern with a face. Admittedly usually some ghoulish, devil type face. Bloody hard work carving out a turnip with your Dad’s best screwdriver and a spoon.

Definitely not a pumpkin in sight and they wouldn’t have grown in the bitter North East. It’s grim up North. If they did grow, the adults would have probably squashed them – filthy foreign veg’ and kid’s should not be having fun.

Usually worked out about two glorious hours for the turnip. Stuffed with a night light (tea light for the middle classes) and carried round on a bit of string, flame blowing out every five minutes. Then blown to bits with a banger on the glorious November 5th, Bonfire Night. Along with the burning Guy, centre of the bonfire – now that is just not right in this day and age. I guess that act will have screwed a few kids up.

Those are the only two festivities that should be close together on the calendar AND they should be bank holidays. God knows what Christmas and New Year are doing so close. What’s the point? Wasted, over indulged, swollen liver and skint for about a month. It’s just not healthy. Then fuck-all to celebrate till Easter. There we go with that God thing again. Give me the turnip harvest any day.

Believe in what you want but don’t impose on others, or shoot them.

Bad to the Bone

Rumour is we are going to be renamed again – Axe Grinder. This could be viewed as a not so subtle attempt to subvert search engines and boost gay readership. Sadly no, just a suggestion by Greg, one of my more talented customers. There’s certainly always something to grind. Mind you the pink pound is more than welcome, in fact any colour would do, but a forty something bloke, no wife or kids, would be the prefect profile with a few indulgent quid to spend and if they hung around long enough do a bit of dusting. Always neat and tidy in my experience.

Grind on……..

I nearly chopped my bloody finger off the other day. Cleaver, woosh, chop, right down to the bone. Only my most important fretting finger, well one of the two I use anyway. Just peachy.

There’s me half way through preparing stir fried crab, ginger, spring onions, bit of garlic, then bosh, claret all up the wall.

That’s bloody Gok Wan for you – “Buy a Chinese cleaver” says Gok, “You’ll never need anything else in the kitchen” – except a plastic hand. Fucking idiot. Wonder if I can sue him?

The geometry’s all wrong. I would liken myself to a highly experienced chopper-upper, usually a Sabatier man, but this cleaver lark has a different center of gravity, different balance point and sharp as a light sabre. Didn’t feel a thing. Still can’t for that matter.

So dinner hits the bin, crab scuttles under the fridge and the washable emulsion on the wall quite clearly is not. I do a swift assessment, marvel at what colour we are inside and drive one handed to the Walk-In Centre.

Peculiar thing that – driving to the Walk-in Centre. Doesn’t seem quite right. It’s for the sick and injured. Shouldn’t it be the Stumble – in Centre? Stagger-to-the-Door, Last Breath Blues. It kind of bothered me. Massive car park too. Something not quite right there.

Dreadful place. Brings out my dark side. I’m lucky, it’s not quite the witching hour. The drunks crash about but don’t bother anyone.

It’s been a red hot day. The place is full of baked red fuck wits. Skin stretched tight, some of the victims innocent little kids with idiotic parents in tow.

“Hello nurse” says little Johnny, “I’m badly sun burnt but can you cure me of this twat?” - looking at Dad.

Time passes, I drip on the floor. To be fair I was seen quickly on entering the establishment, to determine that I would not bleed to death on the premises and then given a useful cardboard bowl and told to wait.

Poor woman in front of me only has one leg, so I was somewhat consoled that no more fancy fretwork was certainly little to worry about. After all there are plenty of two fingered heroes. I don’t think that’s why she was in there. I reckon that would be bang out of order, making you wait when you’ve just chopped your leg clean off.

She watches me drip, then advises to hold my hand above my heart. I explain that I’ve left it in a Lidl bag in the back of the car. I don’t trust these places. Whip out the wrong organ in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful. Sold to the highest bidder.

Two hours pass, flow doesn’t ebb, bowl is soggy. Last man standing, I’m finally seen by two very cheery nurses. Bit of light banter – nurses, not me.

“Hmm down to the bone, circumvential, nerve damage” “What were you cooking? ” Like it made a difference.

Or was it “circumfrential”? Not sure but they stopped short of “proper mess”

“We’ll have to stitch that” – No shit ! I was right all along, should have been a doctor, bloody good job I’d gone there and not Big City Tyres.

They glued the second not-so-bad finger. Good stuff super glue, invented during the Vietnam War to stick every one back together. Must have used tanker loads. How come it doesn’t stick inside the tube and refuse to come out? War. What is it good for? Superglue, there you go.

Anyway to be fair, once ushered in to the little side room I was swabbed, prodded, jacked up and stitched up very quickly and then sent on my way. The nurses were excellent. They even turned the lights off and locked up behind me. Seriously don’t hurt yourself after 9.00 pm as you can’t Walk-In anywhere, they shut up shop – it’s the proper hell of A&E for you.

I completely blame Gok but he is a likeable chap. Swift transition from fashion guru to camp TV chef.

Which reminds me, moving swiftly on to China. Hive of industry, an environmental disaster in the making and tons of dodgy knock off gear hitting our shores by the ship load every day. You name it they make it. Fantastic at producing anything you want. I reckon it’s ‘cos they all have little hands.

I know a bloke that ships in container loads of fake goods. Hugo Boss, Ugg, Barbour, Calvin Klein, Paul Smith, Yves St Laurent. It is all covered. The detail and packaging is amazing. You can order samples, tweak designs if you wish. The business is huge. This is aimed at the UK wholesale market, not just selling out of a car boot. Some stuff gets seized by the Powers-That-Be and half of that comes right round again straight out the back door and in to the market place. Different world, sold cheap to a knowing army of consumers who want the brand label but not the quality or High Street price.

My mate Shoebox needed a new bearing for his yacht. The old one was cracked. Not a problem I’m ever likely to suffer from.

So he sent the bearing to China, asked them to make another. So they did. Came back perfect, with an exact same perfect copy of the crack. Fucking amazing engineering skills. He was absolutely furious. Lost in translation I told him.

China – where they make all those sparkly fake Gibson Les Pauls.

I’ve seen quite a few lately. Several big name signature models – look good from a distance and probably worth £300 all day long. One poor bloke had been suckered in to thinking he had two investment grade pieces, but most people know exactly what they are getting in to from the start.

I’ve have customers who buy, then want a re-fret, new pickups, rewiring. God knows why. The more ethical ask for them to be de-badged. Happy to take your money on this but I won’t make them look like a genuine Gibson. Even I have some scruples somewhere in an old tin.

Thing is I don’t reckon it’s the Chinese at fault per se. They just make stuff that people want. So who is ordering them? The West.

Maybe American companies? Certainly UK punters buy them. Could Gibson benefit? Flooding the market with cheap flotsam that has no resale value?

Cast serious doubt and a shadow on the used market? Don’t buy a used Gibson they could say, as you just do not know if it ‘s the real deal. Apparently the second hand market is Gibson’s biggest competitor – a few ugly rumours could work wonders for new retail Gibson sales.

Strange thing is the Chinese factories could easily correct the obvious tell-tale indicators at little or no extra cost, but they don’t. Why not? Maybe they’ve never been asked. They can make anything just spot-on if specified.

Epiphone style bridges with screw driver height adjustment slots - a great idea but never adopted by Gibson. 3 screw truss rod covers, allen key truss rod adjustment, black painted cavities, plastic wiring, photo veneer tops, unbound fret ends, poor quality neck binding, the list goes on.

Recent workshop experience suggests Gibson may now be adopting some of these Chinese policies and standards – shoddy neck binding, cheap cast bridges with poor quality plating, inferior fret wire. Push fit electrical connections and pcb mounted components, presumably fabricated elsewhere and shipped in. The writing is on the wall.

Don’t imitate – innovate. Play your own stuff, make it up, write it. Buy an honest guitar, whatever your budget – maybe an old quality Les Paul Standard, we’ve got some.

Money for Nothing

Carelessly checking my bank account the other morning I spot a few unrecognised transactions, about fifty of them to be precise, all at £250 a throw. Alarm bells slowly rattle around my caffeine starved skull. Something is wrong. I clearly do not remember being up at 3 a.m. last night spending all this dosh. It would have been fun wouldn’t it ? I don’t do fun much any more. I’d have remembered THIS much fun.

In fact it looks like I didn’t even have time to go to bed – Click, another £250 rolls off the screen. I look for some one to call on the screen, a simple phone number I can dial up.

Now that that would be too much to ask in this Digital Age. “Contact Us” – no chance of a phone number there. I’m advised to check FAQ’s to see if there’s an answer listed.

How can there be? They don’t even know the fucking question. Bastards!!!!!

Do I want to do live chat? Press numbers on my key pad? Fuck off !!! I’m being robbed here.

I childishly consider cutting my card in half, admittedly only for a split second, in the vain hope it will all stop. As if there is some magic built-in chip with a warning beacon that knows when it’s been chopped up.

I hang up after five minutes of listening to options on the Helpline. A life belt would have been more use to me right now. Bosh, another £500 drains away.

The banking hour is approaching, lazy fuckers don’t open till 10 a.m. I decide to use Shanks and pay a visit to the NatWitless Bank just down the road from my humble emporium.

Of course there’s a queue. Mostly coffin dodgers in the wrong building for a new bus pass and some smack head who doesn’t know where he is.

To be fair they did put my name on a list right at the top of an old fashioned clip board and then saw me quite quickly – ish. Offered a seat at a desk by a charming assistant. No coffee though.

Charming wants to know if anyone else has my card – “No, you have it, I just gave it to you…” I explain. In the circumstance I think it’s best not to round off my reply with “Fuckwit”. Got to keep them on side and it goes against my charm school training.

Having just pointed out this somewhat obvious fact, another £500 rolls off the screen and out of my rapidly diminishing bank account. This conversation lasts about forty minutes along with a disappeared £3000, quite a good hourly rate I reckon.

They don’t seem unduly concerned with stopping the cash haemorrhage. Eventually my charming assistant seems satisfied it’s not actually me in Indonesia, siphoning out cash in Sterling, converting it to Euros and depositing in a Southern Ireland account via a gaming establishment in Sacremento.

Charming draws this conclusion largely because of the salient fact that I am sat right in front of her and not on the other side of the world as the debit card would have her believe. However I am required to speak to “security” on the phone in Scotland just as a double check.

Weirdly the scammer deposits £1800 back in to my account, card bites the dust and the plug is pulled, via some bank department in Edinburgh apparently. NatWitless promise to refund me several thousand pounds by 6pm. Stranger still, more money disappears the next day, off the same dead card, also to be refunded by 6pm.

So who had the money and who lost it? NatWitless didn’t really seem to care.

The plot thickens. Berkleys Bank this week. Need to withdraw £2000 to pay some rob-dog plasterer. ATM refuses to cough up but smartly debits my bank account all the same. Sends me a text confirming I’ve just withdrawn two grand. Same thing happens to the next bloke in line – he does one. I think he’s going to have a jammer.

“Don’t worry” the cashier tells me, “it happens all the time, we’ll give it you back.”

“Yea, like, right now!” says I, “I need to pay for my bleedin’ ceilings”. They cough up.

What is going on? It’s scary. Buy a bigger mattress I say.

The Government, any colour you like, I don’t care who you voted for, the Government always manages to get in, the Government are always back in power. Every bloody time. Always the same.

The Government want rid of cash. They hate it, can’t control, track it or trace it. Costs big business way too much to handle and move about.

Cashless society, don’t you just love the idea ? I had some daft twat wanted to buy one guitar string with a card the other day. At least buy a full set you tight bastard. One string. Mind you I’d find it a lot easier if I just had one string.

What’s the alternative to cash? My mate, Shoebox, recently went to work in Australia, building the infrastructure for a real gold mine. Open cast. Huge, like a small city. It was a two hour flight from Perth. Now I believe that Perth is the most remote cities in the world, so this was just fucking miles from anywhere you would ever want to be.

He had the dubious option of actually being paid in little gold bars – honestly it was the real deal. Nothing to spend it on and nowhere to go. Won’t fit in your wallet or shoe.

Gold is okay but I am reliably informed there is a problem if you want to actually hold it in your sticky little mitts. Something to do with VAT. You are supposed to leave it in the Bullion House, some bonded Customs place where it never leaves. You just get a bit of paper to shuffle. That’s no fun. – so you can learn something here after all!

Loss of cash is loss of privacy. It’s the principle. Why should those faceless Civil Serpents know what you are up to ? I bet your phone is turned on 24 / 7. Apple Pay my arse.

They know where you are, where you’ve been, what you do and what you’d like to do. Who you talk to, what you listen to, what you watch, what you spend money on.

Try spending a bit of hard cash – buy some new guitar strings, make sure it’s a full set, it’s like putting on a clean shirt and subverts the system.

Be a Rebel Without a Card.

While my Guitar gently Weeps

I struggled with this, to comment or not ? It doesn’t try to be funny.

Just been watching Grenfell House burn. Horrific. Theresa May says we’ll have a public enquiry. A fucking blind man could see what happened. The cladding burned. People wrapped up inside a firework, dying on TV.

Why do we need an enquiry when we have Youtube ? Concrete buildings don’t burn.

Sunday morning, it was Autumn, years ago as a young man I watched a house burn. Stumbled across it through the thick grey smoke filling the street. We used to get fogs like that, for a second or two I thought it was fog, then the dreadful realisation. Running for a phone in the paper shop up the road.

The hall was like a furnace. The ceiling was on fire. Wallpaper curled and flared off the walls. Carpets blazed, front door blistered. Heat rising caused a wind to rush up the stairs. The staircase was a bright yellow tunnel of flame. I can vividly see it now, all ablaze, happened in about two minutes. The heat was incredible. Unapproachable. I’d never seen anything like it.

The mother, bedraggled and blackened, hair burnt off, night clothes melted to her body, danced on the pavement and pleaded insanely with me to go in - you can presumably guess what for. I couldn’t and nobody ever came out. A fire engine arrived and I went home, bewildered.

Some things you never forget.

Years later I occasionally inspected buildings for a fee, it paid the bills. Reported, prodded, poked about. I’ve seen numerous developments signed off and certified by the Building Inspector, both Local Authority and private Approved Inspectors, where fire protection is missing or inadequate, along with other glaring omissions like drains, expensive error, albeit not usually life threatening.

Some I know were signed off without any final site inspection ever taking place. It goes on all the time. Personally I’ve never seen breaches of building regulations enforced against. But you seriously better beware if you lop a tree in a Conservation Area without permission.

We don’t apply Building Regulations retrospectively in the UK. That is why we have so many three storey Victorian death traps, never mind tower blocks.

On a separate note we have no licensing system for contractors, big or small – anybody can be one. Start tomorrow if you want. There is absolutely no legal requirement for any form of insurance. Injure some one through your ineptness and that’s just tough. Drop a brick on a passing head. You may get slapped down by the HSE, if you can find an inspector, but there is no compensation for the paralysed victim.

So we need a public enquiry. Probably 5 – 7 years to tell us what we already know. Gross negligence and incompetence. The buck will be revolving at supersonic speeds.

We vote for these fuckers – the ones that just talk and talk, slag each other off and do nothing. The ones that have never lived in the real world or set foot in a tower block.

It’s like a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when you watch MP’s perform together on TV. Hear, hear.

I wonder just how much money is involved – Local Authorities, Housing Associations and Corporations, affordable housing levies, contractors, select tender lists, grants, green tariffs, private finance initiatives.

How can a professional organisation propose a multi-million pound property refurbishment and not address the fundamental issues and faults as a starting point for the design process?

Radio Four announce the first victim has been identified. “A Syrian refugee”.

So the poor fucker doesn’t even have a name? Probably not, just a number – and he was only a refugee after all. I wonder how many thought that as the initial public shock subsided.

The Houses of Parliament are about to be refurbished at a cost of billions. I bet they get a sprinkler system. The building is probably exempt from Building Regulations if it’s a Crown building but no expense will be spared. How many hospitals could be built for the same sum?

As odious as he may be I suspect Trump would swiftly act on something as terrible as this – unless of course he owned the cladding factory.

Another Brick in the Wall

We’ve been renamed Andy’s Rants. Can’t imagine why but Trading Standards did call in and claim it was clearly a blatant mis-description, not a proper Blog. It was Gareth’s idea.

Blog - just what sort of word is that?? 21st Century tosh. Not a proper word in my day. Should the text be informative, useful, technical? Or is it a gurgling beast straight out of Tolkein or Twatty Potter?

Who cares? This is a proper disjointed rampage of a rant, so heads down……

Had a really irritating bloke in the shop this week. Talked bollocks for an hour and kept referring to his guitar as “She”. Pissed me off even more when I realize he’s named the fucking thing and had the temerity to call it after my daughter, well at least the name I gave her well before he even picked up a guitar. If BB King had managed to walk in to my humble abode, aside from a miracle, I’d have forgiven him over Lucille and I guess it’s ok with boats, but don’t ask me to explain.

Bleedin’ fruit loop. Down on his luck and wants to sell “Her”, some high end limited edition Martin acoustic. Doesn’t believe in filthy lucre or profit, but wants Her to go to a good home, as long as top dollar crosses his grubby palm.

My head's yelling “Just fuck off and get a job” but my legendary people skills instantly kick in, like a well oiled machine. I nod benignly, like a scheming serial killer, agree on the difficulties of holding down a full time job while practicing the guitar 10 hours a day and trying to establish the true value of a luthier built guitar to the right person. And of course it must only go to the right person he labours.

Finally he leaves, having consumed a whole precious hour of my life that I can never get back, like some parasitic leach feeding off goodwill and bonhomie. We’ve just got fucking bags of that in here….. come and suck it up why don’t you while I try and earn a crust.

Apparently the older I get the less tolerant I become, yet we are all supposed to mellow with age. Why ?????? Don’t you just find you suddenly know loads of stuff, having maybe trudged the planet for nearly sixty years and then no fucker takes any notice of you what so ever! “Shut up Grandad you daft old get, get back in your box and put that bloody guitar down”.

Of course younger readers won’t have a clue what I’m on about. Bastards. Young people. Don’t even change their guitar strings these days.

I’m from the School of Realism. Don’t stand there bleating about your lot. Do something about it. If not for yourself do it for some one else, there’s lots of genuine people who need help.

I’m happy to help, but make an effort for fuck’s sake. I reckon my generation have shot it given a few more years. A new generation who can’t use a tin opener on the way up, in charge of us old codgers, sat in wing-back chairs, drooling. Brings me back round to Soylent Green, don’t need a tin opener for that stuff. We’ve covered that before in a previous rant, look it up & watch the movie.

We are evolving too quickly and becoming independent younger, but not in the true sense. Gone are the family values & support. I’m not talking all Thatcher’s loathsome bile here. There’s no inter-dependence, team work, symbiosis. Some cultures still have it. My local Postmaster, let’s call him Mr Singh, and his family, work their bloody socks off and always with a smile and pleasant quip. Six and a half days a week, 7 – 7 on a full day. Shipping Mastery Bridges for me. Shining examples of the work ethic and pulling together, not like us true Brit’s. Younger generations buried in digital trivia and trash, too busy to load the dishwasher, forging a solo career with a big bunch of electronic Friends in tow.

I watched Trainspotting 2 recently. The monologue, Choose Life, sums it all up brilliantly. Google that.

I reckon Danny Boyle knows the score. Hope I end up in my bath chair sat next to him.

Which brings me smartly round to Donald Trump – miss the connection? Don’t dwell on it. He has almost become a permanent headline, only out done by dreadful terrorist death and destruction. The man is fucking scary, like a shape shifter from hell. Taken over by some long dead loony alien and morphed in to human form with anatomical points of reference taken from The Simpsons, Zombie Flesh Eaters and one of those old Tango adverts (that’s the orange fizzy pop in case you forgot some nutter yelling “you’ve been Tangoed” on TV every night).

Except none of this is funny. Fucking giant head made out of orange putty. Plastic trophy hired bride, we all assume he’s not a great shag, so it must be something else….

What’s going to happen to all those Mexican Fenders when the wall is built ? Have I asked this before ? Will it be a brick wall ? It will need billions of bricks. Around sixty to the square metre. Just think of the ecological destruction, like Trump cares, digging out all that clay, energy for the kilns, huge concrete foundations, all the materials hauled 1000’s of miles.

To digress while we are on the subject of Mexican Fenders, I note all the really good old Fenders from the late 50’s – mid 60’s we have through the repair shop have Spanish names written inside them. Assembled by Mexicans even then one can conclude.

The USA will be completely overrun with itinerant bricklayers, a massive Auf Wiedersehen Pet, that should be a proper laugh. Buy shares in Spear & Jackson, nobody will ever meet the demand for trowels. I wonder who makes the ubiquitous green wheel barrow?

The Wall, potential for street art and self-expression is immense, miles of blank canvas. There’s a thought Mr Trump. Fortunately for you, you don’t get many Atlantic Crossings in a dinghy, sitting comfortably out of range. Here’s a short monologue for you –

Thousands of miles of dusty track, lorries, suffocation, thirst, fear, unknown, lost, desperate, hopeless terror, innocence, no turning back there’s a terrorist on my tail, blue green sea, freezing morass, deadly chocking embrace swallowing the spark of life in seconds. All for what?

If karma exists Donald Trump will be reincarnated as himself – like Ground Hog Day only forever.

Knock on Wood

This is about CITES and wood so bear with me……

Idling the evening away, Lego tower wobbling in the middle of the room, triumphant that it’s still standing. I watch some 2016 Annual Review as if I’d slept the whole year through. Dear departed rock stars and Tango Head Man and the Olympics, corruption, performance enhancing drugs – wish they did those for guitar……

Now if I ‘m honest I don’t really see what’s wrong with drug taking in the pursuit of sporting excellence. Or at least I consider they should have a dual system The Clean, which people would quickly tire of and The Chemically Enhanced.

Nail your colours to the mast and go for it. See just what could be achieved, pumped to the eyeballs, records broken, fame & burst arteries maybe , heart failure, faster than a speeding bullet or at least Roadrunner. Beep Beep. Only rule would be they must have a pulse when the finish line is crossed.

This would decriminalise the chemistry, wipe out the corruption and bribery. Provide a showcase for the chemical industry and remove the mystique. We’d all just become voyeurs and hopefully have no desire to consume having seen the results. Huge sponsorship opportunities. Boots the Chemist, Pfeizer, there must be loads out there, desperate to fork out if only it was legal. Tax revenues would flood in.

Let the wealthy pay for it. Who’s really bothered if some two-goat hell hole hosts the event with a brand new stadium paid for by some oligarchy with the biggest bag of powder?

Sport – what do I know? Always a hopeless candidate, eyesight like a myopic mole. Nobody ever picked me for their team when I was a kid. Dreadful NHS spec’s, the heavy tortoiseshell ones. Couldn’t wear the much sought after John Lennon numbers, lenses too thick for the wire frames you see – or not in my case.

Just half a point off being a registered something or other, Specky Twat was it? Awful time.

At least it was free NHS spec’s with a choice of two colours in those days.

I just had to get some new bins this week. A cool £800 for my posh ultra-thin lenses. Optician said any stronger and I could probably see in to next week and that I would qualify for Government assistance.

I perk up in my optical fog – really? How much assistance? Well you don’t quality but it would have been £4. Fuck off, that’s just a great help. I bet the administration costs £40 a time.

At least nobody forces me to play football anymore. I could never understand all that football and cricket stuff. Our school pitch was on the edge of a cliff overlooking the North Sea. It used to snow horizontal in the winter and we wore shorts, kicking a ball about in a Force 10.

In the summer we’d hang around in cricket jumpers and long trousers sweating our tits off. Barking mad. We were a 1970’s Comprehensive experiment. The posh school up the road played rugby.

With the smack of leather on willow still ringing in my memory – I could never hit fuck all, that brings me smartly round to Rosewood. Genus Dalbergia.

The law relating to CITES and protected species changed on 2 January 2017. Brazilian Rosewood, much sought after for musical instruments and used by Fender & Gibson extensively up to around 1967 for fingerboards and bridges was banned around 1993 by CITES. Now all species of Rosewood, including Indian Rosewood have been brought within the scope of similar international legislation.

This is largely due to our friends in the Far East consuming vast quantities for furniture and other frivolous unnecessary commodities, so we are advised by the Powers-That-Be in the West. Blatantly ignoring the fact that us civilized Westerners started all the deforestation, industrialization, pollution, environmental damage and raging materialism some two hundred years earlier. Don’t get me wrong, I like a posh designer hand bag as much as the next man and if you can’t afford one that’s just fucking tough – work harder and stop sponging.

So – Rosewoods. The law is International and upheld by most countries, thankfully. In a nutshell, maybe a Walnut, it is illegal to buy, sell or exchange any guitar containing Brazilian Rosewood manufactured circa 1947 – 1992 without the appropriate certificate. It is not, curiously, illegal to own said instrument. This applies to all instruments, despite the fact they were manufactured quite legally historically. This applies to everyone involved, buyer & seller, commercial or private, player or collector. Whether it’s a new vintage guitar you wish to buy or an old one you want to sell.

Any guitar being offered for sale or exchange must be advertised with a copy of the certificate number published. Most dealers and retailers do not do this.

If you choose to ignore this there are fines, seizure – that will be you that has the seizure when your 1960 Strat’ is trashed by Customs – or imprisonment. I’m not sure if these are optional punishments – pick one only.

You may as well beat a tiger to death with a fresh elephant tusk.

To straighten all this out you will need an Article 10 Certificate for each guitar bought or sold within the UK.

Should you wish to exit the EU – oh my, oh my, the bloody Government never mentioned that recently, import or export beyond these boundaries, additional permits are required.

As of 2 January 2017 similar, although not quite so onerous, conditions have been applied to guitars containing Indian Rosewood – so probably most quality guitars caught out here, unless you prefer electric blonde or the less common ebony.

It is illegal to import or export Rosewood outside the EU without a permit from the country of export and a further permit for entry in to the UK. So beware all those potential purchases from the USA on Reverb.com, brand new or used, it doesn’t matter. Indian Rosewood guitars can be traded within the UK / Europe without any paperwork.

Practically, the big risk is impounding by Customs and loss of the guitar. It is very difficult to obtain permits retrospectively, as the law has already been broken at that point and ignorance, as we all know, is no excuse.

Brexit looming will bring about the same problems with import / export from Europe. So you will only be able to sell or buy within the confines of the UK without permits in place.

All this applies right now to the likes of Fender wanting to send Rosewood fingerboard stock to the UK from USA. Each instrument needs a permit. Unless Trump burns everything of course.

Speculating, will Indian Rosewood rise in value as the big manufacturers drop Indian for “greener”, cheaper, permit free but possibly inferior products? Baked, compressed, reconstituted fingerboards may become commonplace.

Very recently I took a walk down Denmark Street and further afield in London. Innocently enquiring of five retailers “what to do about CITES and was it a problem?”

I was firmly told it was “all bollocks, not applicable, ignore it, who cares? only applies in Germany, it’s just a USA thing and it costs over £200 ”. Very professional response I thought …... Then again if you sell on consignment or commission it’s not your instrument that gets seized.

All guitars we sell containing Brazilian Rosewood have a valid Article 10 Certificate. Export licenses will be organized if required. Costs vary but range from around £31 – £65 for individual permits.

We will also apply for permits and certificates on your behalf, if you wish, for a small fee.

The preceding drivel is a light hearted overview. The legislation and administration is complicated and includes other timber species and of course ivory products including nuts, saddles and bridge pins.

We take absolutely no responsibility for the above content but don’t get caught out – if you need any further advice don’t go to Denmark Street.

It’s getting better all the time

Another raft of festive bank holidays over with. Strange concept, like the Banks work really hard and need extra special time off. Saturday night, “family time”. You reach an age where you genuinely are not bothered about going out on a Saturday night. Maybe 5 – 8 pm would be tolerable but I don’t even really miss that. Tonight I’ve done Lego towers and a garage, a few stories. Now it’s time for “Britain’s got Twats”. Unbelievable. When I was a kid in the 70’s most of these fuck wits would have been branded with dreadful politically incorrect names, jeered off stage and prodded with sharp sticks.

The great British public, reveling in humiliation and degradation. Who watches this garbage, aside from Billy-No-Mates me not going out on a Saturday?

Then up pop the loathsome chirpy Ant and Dec, perpetual fixed grins, tacky pointless banter, amiable accents. The hopeful and the hopeless, dishing out their best to millions of sofa surfers. Repulsive. Reminds me of the Running Man, except nobody gets chopped up with a chainsaw.

Now I have been advised that my ramblings and outpourings are pointless and I should not be venting opinions but rather drafting technical documents on instrument repair or reviewing gear – bite the hand that feeds you I reckon, or something like that. Show you how to do a re-fret, now why would I do that??

I never understood the concept – some bloke doing a vintage amp review on Youtube – “Best ever amp this one, amazing, just listen…” Compressed, digitized, whizzed across the ether and then decoded and listened to on something no bigger than an Oxo cube and about the same quality.

Surely it’s like watching an advert for the best TV ever on your crappy old screen.

Whereas you can silently tune in to this column and find out what’s really happening on the street……… Look out for my next publication “Knock on Wood” for sparkling wit and repartee, discussing the highly topical and controversial subject of Rosewood and CITES and then let me know what you think.

Delusional I maybe but also apparently VERY negative. I have a regular visitor to the workshop, let’s call him John, who considers my puerile outpourings way too negative and challenged me to write something positive and upbeat. Yeah right.

I thought about this for a while and concluded he was barking. We play Blues, wallow in melancholy and minor keys. Bad to the bone. Middle class white boy Blues it maybe but we think we know what it was all about and how to suffer.

Looking for inspiration I considered comedy. Nothing’s funny unless there is a loser, Rigsby or Homer Simpson maybe, ridicule, somebody getting whacked, suffering misfortune or abuse. Tom & Jerry. Itchy and Scratchy for the enlightened – dreadful events, slap stick violence – makes me really laugh.

Positivity. I did have a germ of an idea but it slipped in to one of the many voids in my head. Bloody annoying as I cannot fully recall and struggle to find inspiration without taking my natural stance sliding in to doom-mongering.

So to the positive aspects – I can hang around a guitar shop all day and play all sorts of great guitars. Life now revolves around full time instrument repair to maintain body and soul and all the bits and bills attached.

This proves challenging in many respects and is highly varied in terms of repair works commissioned and different guitars to be worked on.

Most enlightening are the customers. The workshop has traded for nearly three years and it has been a most pleasant experience, dealing with people who, by and large, are appreciative, interesting, complimentary and genuine folk, of all ages and walks of life. Many are talented musicians.

This contrasts starkly with a previous life where the biggest problem was always the clients, the majority of whom were arrogant, obnoxious and avaricious – testimonials were very thin on the ground in those days.

So there you have it – a very happy little workshop, with a guitar museum attached and all the exhibits are available for sale.

People wander in and dream, some even pick up and play. I don’t mind if they never have any intention of buying – well I do a bit, but let’s not dwell.

Then there are the young kids who cannot believe they can plug in and play a proper real vintage Strat’, older than their Dad, or maybe a Les Paul and that daft git behind the counter doesn’t mind – course I don’t otherwise you wouldn’t be invited to play. Big experience, they love it. The best one’s are the twelve year old types with their Dads, big smiles, leaving the shop with dreams and pocket money plans.

There’s the odd one who pisses me off, checking the price of strings on his phone against Amazon and decides to buy on-line to save a nicker. Or typically “can I buy a pick for 80p and pay by card ? ” No – fuck off.

Generally however customer relations are good and the workshop thriving, so now you know where to come for fretwork, electrical work, Bare Knuckle Pickups, set-ups, refinishing…… and vintage guitars.

Just round the corner we now have PMT joining in the local guitar melee. Hopefully this won’t impact too much on other local specialists. However it is highly encouraging to realize that a relative corporate giant is still expanding with new bricks and mortar outlets, taking on very real overheads and commitment in this age of on-line retail and the shrinking High Street. They are very much a destination retailer for musicians and must surely bring greater footfall and business to all local shops with an interest in guitars.

That was bland – how did I do John??

Should I Stay or Should I Go ??

Rarely do I dabble in politics in this irksome little column, my irregular tirades against all and sundry and the Fuckwits of the World.

The great EU debate trundles on. Lies & counter-lies, fiction & conjecture night after night. Blatantly exaggerated statistics, twisted and turned more than Keith Richards’ fingers, to suit either camp’s hidden agenda.

A brief lull while the world protests and mourns a child molesting gorilla shot stone dead while 100’s perish in the Mediterranean every night, last gasps and cries unheard in the dark except by their terrified helpless comrades.

In or Out ? I can remember it all first time around, only just. That and decimalisation. We were just kids. No wonder we struggled with math’s. Brought up in a system of 12’s, duodecimal. Bloody Romans, Lsd for short – that’s Europe for you. I forget, 12 pennies to the shilling, 20 shillings to the pound. Me grandma had florins & farthings with a wren on the back. Silver three-penny bits, worth more for their silver content than face value.

Fuck knows what a “Guinea” was. We never saw one. Most we ever got to see was 2 & 6 on birthdays. Half-a-crown. I still remember finding one now, sliding down a dusty mud bank on Roseberry Topping and there it was glinting under the heel of me plimmy. Amazing ! A big round silver half-dollar. Thick as a Ritz biscuit.

Ten bob notes, red I recall. Mean Mister Mustard kept one up his nose. I asked me dad to save one for posterity when the note was usurped by the fifty pence piece. Another dumb idea it turned out, me not the Treasury. Got a thick ear and something to think about.

In or Out ? Meant nothing to the masses in the 70’s I bet. Most voted because it was maybe something to do with the newly discovered Costa Brava, Tossa del Mar and Benidorm. Cheap package holidays had only just started. Nobody went further than the Med’ and most probably never got past Butlins.

Filthy foreigners, Disque Bleu and horrible food. Pasta ? Fuck off. Nearest we got to being cosmopolitan was tinned spaghetti hoops in gloop. I can’t even recall the humble pizza in those days.

Vesta Curry. Now that was the real deal, very tropical. Couldn’t you just hear the cicadas chirp as you tore open the packet ? No need to go to India. No doubt impossible then unless you were seriously minted.

As we climbed the social ladder we went camping in France. Five of us in a grey Morris Minor with all the gear and two weeks worth of Marks & Spark’s tinned food. We were storming up that ladder, shopping at M & S. Weighed a bloody ton, Car on its axle but you couldn’t trust that dirty French food and they may not have proper shops. I can still remember the excitement of driving on the M1, a MOTORWAY ! Must have looked like the Clampits. Picnic with hard boiled eggs, thermos and cold chicken in a service station car park.

To think we were the adventurous ones. I know people even now who’ve never left the safety of the North East. Hugging the windy shoreline. It was scary in the State of Georgia, the Devil went down there, Piggly-Wiggly’s and all that, but you want to take a visit to Skinningrove. Google that one. The town that time forgot and Darwin.

So once again we are called to the ballot box. Do your duty. I just might re-enter the system for this one. Off grid me usually.

Try getting credit - “But your not on the electoral roll Sir, where exactly do you live ?” Do you want to sell me the washing machine or not ? Never had a problem, always got the goods.

Proper subversive me, albeit with clean clothes. Wonder if they’ll ask where I’ve been for the last forty years ? Obviously not somewhere practicing guitar, that’s blatantly clear.

I doubt my mark will tip the balance one way or another but I know which box I’d favour.

Remember this – nothing ever changes whoever is in Office as the people in Power never change. He who has the gold is blind in one eye, or something like that. He would have been blind in both by now – and skint, if he lived where I did.

Recession, inflation, double dip bollocks, low interest my arse – what’s different ? Nobody EVER has enough, could do better. Everyone with a flat screen TV, a wall to hang it on, mobile phone, take-aways. Always complaining.

What is real is the absurd – obscene - cost of bureaucracy over the water that we subscribe to daily. Life will go on whatever. We used to import tons of butter from New Zealand and trade all over the world – what’s the difference ?

A tick in the box will not suppress the migrant hoards. They will still come to our shores. Their problem isn’t just elected away. There’s no democracy where they flee from. There is no solution, the tide has turned.

What happened hundred’s of years ago when we British went on a jolly and turned up on some far flung foreign shore ? It wasn’t called “Immigration” then. We just landed and nicked everything. Told the locals they’d been “found”.

The Carib’s lived happily forever on their beautiful islands until we emigrated there and gave them syphilis, sugar cane and shackles. I bet they never even got a vote on the matter.

It might have been us, but more likely those swarthy Portugese expert mariners who sidled up to Brazil and started chopping down trees.

Brazilian Rosewood, Dalbergia Nigra, that’ll be it’s Latin name just to complicate matters and make you feel really inferior if you had a Comprehensive education. Great stuff for musical instruments, guitar finger boards. Hard, resonant and endangered since 1992 according to CITES.

So just be wary all you lucky vintage guitar players out there with a prized Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard or ivory saddle, not forgetting the endangered mammals of course.

I’ve just dealt with my first electronic CITES Article 10 certificate application. A snippet for your delecatation :

Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 and Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein ……. were acquired in or introduced into the issuing Member State before the provisions of Regulations (EC) No 338/97 or (EEC) No 3626/82 or of CITES became applicable in this territory.

Still with me ? Drafted by the EU no doubt. The cost of administration must be staggering. This is managed in the UK by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). To their credit highly efficient it seems, once past the form filling.

Losing the will to live I ploughed on to the bitter end. The H.M. Gov website actually apologises in their supporting notes, stating their “hands are tied by legislation”.

End in sight I try and pay the £31 fee, only to be advised by some Government face in Bristol that they’d rather have a cheque in the post and while I’m at it a paper application too, as the system cannot cope.

There’s me trying to crawl out of the primeval swamp of pen and paper, only to be thwarted by H.M. Gov.

So CITES. I bet that’s here to stay whether In or Out. Import your dream guitar from the USA and it has a fair chance, maple excepting, of being impounded and never seeing the light of day. So THEY say. In reality the outcome will be the same, you lose your vintage guitar and some official will be plucking it in the staff canteen. There’s no system for a retrospective application.

Cameron says “We’re all in this together” too true Dave – just some more than others, unless you are a multi-millionaire. Supercilious twat. I bet his dinghy doesn’t get a puncture.

Whatever the outcome it will be a mess and have cost an astronomical amount of tax payers money. We’ve probably learnt more about our politicians in the last few weeks than the past decade. When the band your in starts playing different tunes it’s time to get out.

The writing’s on the wall. The Office for National Statistics - unbelievable that we have such a body, they’d be first against that wall …… any way they tell us there are about 1.9 million unemployed, 31.5 million working and a population, increasing rapidly at both ends, of 67+ million.

Something’s got to give, Dave. (substitute whatever name you want – they are all the same)

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss……… Won’t get Fooled Again ?

Feed the World

Listening to reports of corruption surrounding the world cup kicking off, or was it that Coe bloke’s gang or maybe both ? Who really cares in our troubled world ? When I was a kid you’d have had a proper kicking if you were called Sebastian.

Staggeringly huge amounts of money have been changing hands, makes you wonder just how much do you really need ?

Why wouldn’t one just take a good wedge and call it a day ? A nice round £10 mill’ should be enough for any one, even today. Don’t be too greedy.

Doesn’t surprise me. I think everyone has their price, be it cash or maybe a new liver, or both. The majority of us never get to try, chance our arm, live a little, live a lot with ten million.

Port of Spain, seat of FIFA corruption and money changing hands, allegedly. That’s one of he scariest places I’ve ever been, except perhaps Pakistan. That one’s for another day.

Port of Spain. I didn’t feel at risk being a tourist, despite being so bleedin’ obvious in my best Mambo shirt and wristwatch sunburn mark. Take your watch off so you look poor……. Who do we think we are fooling. Think I had every Mambo shirt ever printed in those days.

It wasn’t a tourist thing, everybody felt at risk. Police armed to the teeth, strap-on-leg dagger, hand grenades, machine gun. Like some crazy over zealous action man dressed by a kid in the ‘70’s, except these guys were for real.

For those of you that don’t know Action Man was a doll played with by boys – gripping hands, scar and a proper haircut, not the boys. Bloody weird looking back now.

The bars – in Port of Spain – had bar stools and tables concreted in to the floor. No hitting your mate over the head with one of them. The bar itself, encased in a steel cage, like a cashiers. Just sufficient gap to slide over a bottle of Banks below the mesh.

I went for a look around, not heeding the taxi driver’s very good advice to stay put. Bad idea. He actually said “If your still alive around 4.30 I’ll pick you up, and whatever you do don’t walk past that big old church up there..” Nice bloke.

It was baking hot.

The shopping centre was burning, looters having a field day with dogs and sticks and machetes. They didn’t bother anyone in the melee, just wanted electrical goods. Page to page murders and gruesome body part discoveries in the local rag, School girls disappearing. Government hangings. Not an easy read.

I boarded a brand spanking new inter-island hopping plane to get there. Some sort of angry buzzing propeller driven thing. Big signs at check-in “No hand guns or knives on this flight”

Glad we cleared that one up then. Like it was normal. They had to be put in the hold if you were carrying. Some comfort there I suppose. Strangely no mention of anything longer that a hand gun, like a shotgun or rifle. Probably just popped them in the overhead lockers.

Carried on walking and stepped over a body on the way to the docks. Schoolboy error. Docks are always a really dumb place to visit in a strange country when you are so obviously out of your depth. At least it was daylight.

I had a girlfriend (once) who used to insist on taking out a map as big as a tablecloth, just when you were obviously lost in some proper crummy locality.

The map would always be upside down and required lots of waving and flapping about. Might as well have a fucking roundel pinned to your chest.

I don’t generally get lost, as usually I don’t even where I am going so don’t know where I’m supposed to be at any given time, therefore can’t be lost – work that one out. Best way. Something interesting always turns up unless you have to leg it.

The art of map reading. Just about lost now – no more orientation. North at the top, which side is the moss growing on ? Where does the sun rise ? Old Indian tricks.

The locals play a lot of steel pans in that part of the world. Might be clever but it’s bloody irritating all the same. Abba’s greatest hits by pan. Goat racing too, loads of that.

So all these FA blokes sat in this smart hotel, counted their dosh out and then decided which country would host the World Cup. Easy decision at this point I guess. A no-brainer.

Outrageous, but happens the world over, even on our lovely shores, we are all in denial.

You cannot easily reverse 100 years of creeping bureaucracy. Parish Councils, Town Councils, County Councils, Metropolitan Boroughs. Duplication in quadruplicate. Jobs for the boys. Gross inefficiency and crass union meddling way beyond the original worthy ideological intent. Layers of administration, outrageously priced contracts, waste and corruption. Committees, sub-committees, Working Parties – that’s a laugh, surely misrepresentation there? The public spoon fed and coddled to the point where we don’t even have to tweak our own machine heads anymore.

Failed politicians squandering public money in County Halls across the land. Mayors, gold chains, chauffer driven civic vehicles. We even have a Sheriff. Career politicians craftily avoiding the real world for a lifetime. You can’t make much of a difference in just five years, unless you shoot somebody.

So now we have an Austerity Programme. Look to blame some Party or other. All inherited woes so they say. Liars. In reality it has been thirty + years of ever expanding easily available credit, artificial living and get-rich-quick monetary vehicles that are to blame. Inherent greed. Low-cost Endowment – remember that one ? Something–for–nothing. Yeah right. Who’s paying now ?

Share sell-offs, get rid of the public utilities, which just happen to belong to the Public. Make some quick money – Bit of repetition there, think I ‘ve covered that travesty before.

All greedily lapped up by Middle England and anyone else that could get a look in and a loan. You can’t blame folk, we all have our price, it’s just payback time now.

There can never be enough work or employment for the masses now. Perversely we’ve become incredibly more efficient with production and worldly goods. No more two year old rusty cars, cronky TV’s and crap fridges. Stuff lasts forever these days.

Anyone can source and buy a nickel plated Whitworth grub screw or a pickled gnats bollock off a bloke in Osaka, have it shipped sideways and pay for it with a click, delivered in two days for a dollar. I’ve been to Osaka, they are all small there. I went with Gorgeous George. Felt like the Attack of the Fifty Foot Women. You can’t get lost in a crowd and it’s seriously crowded everywhere.

They eat octopus balls, which are the Oriental equivalent of crab sticks, but the worst variety made from a crab’s arse. Taste awful. Crazy little bars as big as your Mam’s pantry. Awesome God-like Sumo wrestlers and amazing cartoon trains like Donald Duck on steroids and amphetamine.

It’s a shrinking world with far too many people. I don’t care where they’ve come from or where they are going. We live longer, retire later. Too many mouths to feed. No politician will discuss the problem. Soylent Green was a great film, maybe we should use some of those ideas….. solve a few mounting problems.

So if you’re a victim of Austerity and suddenly have a lot more time on your hands, practice your guitar but don’t eat your Grandad – for those who wonder what the fuck I’m banging on about watch the film, it’s the one with Charlton Heston …….

Steel River Blues

Walked in to Roughtrade Records today. Baffling mix of books, vinyl and cd’s with a promise of cassettes to come soon - whoopee doo.

Fancied some Mavis Staples having caught part of her set on a Glastonbury re-run. If it’s not at least forty years old I can’t listen to it…Mavis must be knocking on 70 so it’s a safe bet.

There’s a thing. Festivals - Glastonbury.

Wonderful Middle England wallowing in wellies. 200 000 people off their tits in a field- like they really need an excuse. Nobody needs one anymore. We can do it this very weekend or on a Wednesday afternoon if you like. Take your pick.

Legions of decidedly white people swigging lager, popping pills, sat in a sludge of their own making. Swamp Thing and his Bride lurch across the grass heading for the Tent of Oblivion. Banker and lawyer Monday to Friday. Wasted and Intoxicated cross dressers at the weekend.

I was sat on the sofa watching old edited highlights, hosted by a smug bastard from Radio Talk2Much Toss.

Do I miss it, festivals ? Like a car crash. I could have been there. Probably miles from the stage with fuckwits waving flags and hurling bottles of piss at each other. A swaying sea of perspiring unclean humanity. Like an affluent refugee camp running from reality for the weekend and calling in sick Monday.

Sofa’s the safest place. I’ve worked on the burger pitches. Bloody hard work that sketch. I’m giving it Gas Mark 6 on my 8th can of Stella at 11.30 a.m. Feeling like I’ve been run over, at least another 14 hours to go, prepping, serving, cleaning down.

Somebody dared to complain they had a ladybird in their steak sandwich.

“Your in the middle of a fucking field love, it’s wildlife out there, not Pret A Bloody Mange. Do you want it or not?”

Granted not the industry standard response “Don’t tell every one, they’ll all want one” jibe. They took me off customer service so I butterflyed 30Kg of chicken breast instead. Poking my eyes out listening to Mumford & Son. I wouldn’t be playing the violin that night, chicken goo takes ages to wash off, dries on you like a second skin.

Macho blokes in a dresses and Freddie Mercury syrup wander by, wanting steak “as rare as you like mate” They are the best ones. Quickest money. No reason to complain. In and out. The blood soaks in to the ciabatta - disgusting.

We do posh nosh here. No doughy bread rolls. Just a char-grilled artisan bread half the Philistines can’t pronounce and home made pickles, instead of the ubiquitous red sauce. Marinated salmon, chicken, halloumi . The latter does their heads in. Cheese ? Really ?? Grilled ??? That’s weird man.

“Fuck off daft lad and give me a steak, just show it the pan, and lob some chips on top while your at it.”

Staggeringly eloquent most of them. Fuelled up, bit of bravado now they are out of the office and wearing a mankini. What a knob.

We don’t do chips. I reckon that’s a mistake. Half of them only want a quick carb’ fix. Eyes wide open, oblivious, twitching, a manic chemical experiment.

Who’s going to opt for a ciabatta with halloumi when they can’t even speak ? The basket cases stand in the queue and piss themselves before giving up and stagger to the chip wagon opposite. I love festivals me. 200 sobs a ticket maybe good value if your just after quantity and ignore the width. Pity more people don’t support their local venues for a tenner on a Friday night.

And best of all on the local circuit you don’t have to put up with watching the Libertines while waiting for your favourite band. That bloke is a complete arsehole.

So Mavis is giving it large and the crowd love her. Mavis who ? But fortunately they don’t care. Guitarist plays a lazy Telecaster, like he’s done it for a 100 years. Git. Watch it on Youtube.

Anyway, Roughtrade. An explosion of Sterling board and splinters. Cheapest shopfit I’ve ever seen, like Steptoe did it. All in all though a good operator, brings something to the street and offers LIVE music which is to be applauded.

Where do I find Mavis ? Baffling catalogue system – World Music, American, English, Revivalist, House, Buddhist, R & B, Sloth, Crap blah blah.

What happened to A-Z, Rock n Roll & Blues ? Like it’s really even necessary to have any other music categories. Dead simple. I don’t care what genre. Look under “M” then remember it’s probably “S”. I can’t read the micro-print etched by a gnat on the labels and dividers.

Don’t they realise only old gits with dodgy mincers buy this stuff now, it’s got to be 40 years old ? Bad merchandising I reckon.

Is it Chicago Blues ? Bastards. I give in. I’m a bloke so I’m not going to ask anyone to help.

“Mavis who ? You old fucker, can’t you read the labels ?”

I leave harbouring terrible thoughts of Amazon. Click on a button and wait for the rattle of the letterbox. No wonder I can’t sell guitar strings. Life’s too easy by far for the idle and waged.

Unless you’re a steelworker.

Roger Daltrey was, and maybe Springsteen too. I could find out but what’s the point?

I was brought up in the shadow of the steelworks. Monstrous blast furnace. Tees estuary lapping its scorching feet. Local train line went through the middle of the site.

Fascinating seeing huge tongues of flame and red hot glowing billets of steel when your five years old. Sat on the grubby tartan seats as the train chugged through. Chin resting on the hard chrome seat rail, teeth rattling. Always a smell of diesel and cigarette smoke. Riding the Guard’s van with me Mam on the days we had the big Silver Cross pram with us. Sister bundled up inside, oblivious to the pyrotechnics outside, fast asleep.

Solid white rubber tyres on that. The pram not the train. We used to make carts out of the wheels once the babies were over and done with. Splinters in your arse, grazed knees. The wheels bent over when cornering hard, if you dared, just before you fell out. Bit more technical than a Roughtrade shopfit though. Steered with a piece of washing line looped through the front axle. Your foot for a brake. We put lino’ in our shoes once the sole wore through. It worked for a bit but didn’t make you stop any faster. Mam used to go barmy at us.

Plenty of souls worn through now though.

Everybody worked at British Steel or ICI. Acres of blackened foul tainted land, enormous plant lit up like Christmas and belching fumes 24/7. Gantries, scaffold, conveyors, flare stacks, klaxons, brown nitrous stains in the sky. Like Mad Max collides with Bladerunner. What about the environment ? Like anybody knew or even cared in the ‘70’s. “Bloody Hippy Greenpeace bastard give him a kicking”

Ships lined up at sea. Twenty or more huge tankers, bulk carriers. Waiting for the tide to edge in to the sceptic mouth of the Tees and a berth. We watched the Plimsole line change. We’d learned something at school after all.

All change. The plant closes overnight. No controlled shut down. Furnace is knackered. Thousands jobless, all the support industries, sandwich makers, scaffolders, cleaners, overalls, tooling.

They will never de-contaminate that site before God checks out. There is 180 years + of toxic abuse. Probably no point in reality. What would you build – houses for the unemployed ? Buy-to-lets ? Affordable homes ? Apartments with a view of the soon-to-be derelict docks ?

Makes me piss.

Build a house on spec’. A modest one. Probably cost you £100 / square foot. Build cheap en-masse, maybe £85 / sq ft. So how big is a house ? A generous two bed maybe 800 sq ft. Chuck in some land, cheap at £40k a plot, some infra structure, a bit of profit – we all need that. profit is good. A water connection is £2000.

Before you know it £120 000 + for a box with a roof. Average national wage £ 24 000…. unless you work in steel or maybe Parliament. Borrow 3 times your salary…… simple math’s. Smug bastards politicians.

So now we’ve got no steel, no coal and all are utilities are owned by Johnny Foreigner. I know lets give China a piece of the action too. The grand kids will be really made up about that. “Thanks Grandad, you daft twat. Have you seen the price of candles ??”

The crime of privatization. Sell off the tax payer’s legacy. What a great idea. That fat bastard Sid has a lot to answer for. British Gas – remember ? I blame him, he started it – or was it She-who-shall-not-be-named ?

A bit like the army awarding its ammo’ contract to the other side. Barking mad.

Steel – so will the price of guitar strings now rocket ?

When did we last have a politician that had experienced a real job ? Gone to a comp’ ? Clocked on. Clocked off. Lived on a council estate ? Drank in the Dog and Scroat with the shoplifters ? Granted there will be the odd one, sat at the back, suffering from low self-esteem and a bad suit.

It doesn’t matter who you support, what your poison. They don’t support you. The majority have never been in the real world, average world, average wage.

I used to drink in a proper estate boozer named after some famous race horse. Just like “Shameless”. There are 1000’s of them littering the country. You could order anything in there over and above a pint. Contract killing or a tin of peaches. The shoplifters traded there.

To those who’ve led a sheltered life that’s a proper profession among the scum bags and work shy. Ever wondered why you see 30 coat hangers dumped in a car park ?

I recall a beautiful summer day sat in the bar. I could’ve gone fishing but it was too hot and I’d lost my shades so I called by to score a new pair. This bloke staggered in, big lumpy overcoat, heavily laden. Sweating like Corbyn in front of the Queen.

Huge grin. He’d just broken the record. Fifty two tins of salmon nicked out of the Co-op in one hit. Didn’t want to sell, just needed a pint after some hard graft and claim his rightful title.

I wonder if all the tins will come from China now ? And will it be genuine salmon or some fishy pink flesh purporting to be the same noble fish ? “John East - Pink Stuff”

And just where will your guitar strings come from ? - Better play Spanish.